Death of A Pregnant Elephant: Communalisation of a Tragedy to Serve Narrow Political Ends

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PROF RAM PUNIYANI | Clarion India

INDIA, a plural society is undergoing the pangs of communalisation at a rapid pace. In this process, religious minorities are targeted and subjected to violence, which is overtly justified. This communalisation did begin with the British introducing communal historiography.

After a long journey, now any and every incident or tragedy is given a communal turn with ease as the communal forces are strong and they have built up a massive formal and informal media network. We saw this in case of Corona pandemic when a section of media and many communal functionaries blamed Tablighi Jamaat for being Corona spreaders, for preparing Corona bomb and for undertaking Corona Jihad.

Back on the heels of this, another tragedy which struck the nation has been given a communal turn. A 15-year-old pregnant elephant Soumya died in tragic circumstances on 27th May, 2020 in Palakkad, Kerala. She had accidentally eaten the fruit (Pineapple/Coconut?) filled with crackers. Her mouth burnt as crackers exploded, her lower jaw was damaged and she lost her life. There are many dimensions to the issue.

Firstly, the fruit was filled with crackers to scare away the wild boars that damage crops and farms. The elephant was an accidental victim. But pouncing with ferocity, the BJP MP and former Minster of Environment and Forests, Maneka Gandhi lashed out with a tweet, full of inaccuracies and fully laced with communal biases, She attributed the event to have taken place in Malappuram, a Muslim majority district of Kerala and tweeted, “Mallapuram is known for its intense criminal activity, especially with regard to animals. No action has ever been taken against single poacher or wildlife killer so they keep doing it.”

Also read: 

  • Truth about Elephant Death Pricks the Communal Bubble Set Afloat by Maneka Gandhi
  • Dead Elephant Ploy Maneka’s Gift to Anti-Muslim Media

    In her statement to ANI (https://sabrangindia.in/article/malappuram-not-wild-west-madam-maneka-gandhi-open-letter), she said Malappuram is the most disturbed district in the country. According to her, everyday something horrible is reported from the district. Not only all types of animals are killed, people are also killed in communal incidents. That happens there almost every day. Her tweet and the statement together picture Malappuram and Kerala in the most negative light but are totally based on falsehoods.

    To begin with, why she could not name Palakkad and named Malappuram? It is mostly due to the fact that Malappuram is a Muslim majority district. It was formed as a separate district in the second EMS Namboodripad Ministry. The move was opposed by Bharatiya Janasangh, the previous avatar of BJP. So many districts have been formed in the country since then, not once BJP opposed that, but a Muslim majority district cannot be accepted by this party.

    Maneka also went on to criticise Kerala for poaching and abuse of elephants in the state. One will partly agree with her that as elephants are put to use in religious functions and in other difficult tasks. But the point is; that is a phenomenon all over, more so in the neighboring Karnataka. One recalls Veerappan and his smuggling of ivory. Even the religious use of elephants is there in many other states as well. Here, the ex-Minister is quiet as Karnataka is currently being ruled by her party, while in Kerala with all the efforts for decades her party is not able to get any electoral foothold, while its parent organisation, RSS, has fairly strong roots in the state.

    Her statements about Malappuram are purely a concoction. The crime rate in this district is much lower than the worthy MP’s own electoral constituency Sultanpur. As far as communal disturbance is concerned, just a sample will do. When in the wake of Babri demolition Mumbai, Surat and Bhopal were burning and many places in North India were experiencing the pangs of violence, Malappuram did not witness any violence.

    As far as her statement that thousands of women are killed there, lesser said the better. Kerala is one state in the country where sex ratio is the best. On top of that among Muslims the sex ratio is better as the practice of female feticide in the community is negligible compared to the same among the Hindus.

    Backing up her tweet, the current Environment and Forest Minister Prakash Javdekar added that such an incident, which has taken place in Malappuram, is against Indian culture. The Minister with all information under his command did not even know that the incident took place in Palakkad, not Malappuram. But of course as biases rule the roost currently Mr. Javdekar also wanted to target a Muslim majority district. Apart from the communal angle which has been instilled by these two worthies from the BJP, the incidence has raised many an issue related to our treatment of animals.

    The hypocrisy of BJP and company is very obvious. On one side it has unleashed the agenda of ‘Cow as Mother”, but at the same time the condition of cows in many a cowshed in BJP-ruled states is abysmal. One recalls the incidence of Hingonia in Rajasthan when during BJP regime, hundreds of cows in a cowshed died due to starvation and illnesses (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/cows-died-of-malnourishment-sickness-at-hingonia-last-year/articleshow/57696871.cms). At a time when India is peaking in the incidents of lynching in the name of cow, India is also coming to the forefront as the leading exporter of beef. Interestingly, many or most of the exporters are non Muslims!

    At the time of writing while the major focus of the ruling party is to practice divisive politics, the need is to formulate norms for use of animals, which are kind and compassionate. Incidentally when all this is being talked about in the society, one appreciates the concern for the pregnant, would be mothers and the unborn child, one is reminded of Gujarat where a pregnant mothers’ womb was pierced and the unborn child was hung on Trishul (Trident). Also, one is deeply concerned about another would be mother, Safoora Zargar, an M Phil Student at Jamia, who is behind the bars, denied bail for participating in the anti CAA protests. Where is our compassion? Is it reserved only for elephants of Kerala?

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Ram Puniyani is an eminent author, activist and former professor of IIT Mumbai. The views are personal and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.

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